Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for May 12

Here’s the Explore the Bible Sunday School lesson commentary for May 12, written by Ben Stubblefield, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile.

Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for May 12

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By Dr. Ben Stubblefield
Visiting assistant professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile


Genesis 41:14–21, 33–37

Credit Given (14–16)

I’ve had some strange dreams in my life. I still have a vivid memory of a dream in which I had a long philosophical conversation with Charlie Brown. In case you’re wondering, he’s quite an existentialist.

Y’all know how it is: Dreams seem real at the time, but we often don’t read too much into them.

But Pharaoh’s dreams, Egypt believed, were given special priority. One Genesis commentator says, “Egyptian Pharaohs, supposedly gods themselves, were thought to live on the edge of the divine realms.” So their dreams were assumed to be more like visions and explanations of things to come.

Understandably, then, the violent dreams of chapter 41, ugly cows consuming fat cows and withered corn swallowing good corn, solicit a national emergency for Egypt. And all skilled in divination are called to give an account.

The rather forgetful cupbearer, who dodged execution with the help of Joseph in chapter 40, recalls Joseph’s giftedness in interpretation and has him summoned to court to work his magic (41:15).

But Joseph is quick to correct the mistake. He is not a soothsayer. This novel ability “is not in me.” Joseph credits God, appropriately, as the one who has ordained this unusual moment and insight.

It’s not always easy to deflect praise when it’s misdirected.

Believers, however, have a funny instinct toward humility of themselves and exaltation of the Lord, from Whom comes all good and perfect gifts. This isn’t just a noble virtue; it’s also a way to point others to the greatness and grandeur of our God, which Joseph is doing the instant he stands before the most powerful personage in his known world.

Cows Consumed (17–21)

As Joseph interprets the dream for Pharaoh, notice how he is clear about who controls the seasons, the rains and the sun. He doesn’t suggest that Pharoah or Ra or some other deity can ordain events — only Elohim. It’s really remarkable that this newly minted, shaved prisoner has the audacity to preach at the King. He does not hide, cower or hesitate. Kings do not make history; he preaches that God makes history, and we all exist by the power of His hand. An amazing set of circumstances. And all because of a dream.

As I mentioned, I often do not make decisions on the basis of my dreams. Most of us don’t. I think God used Joseph to interpret dreams because Egypt valued the Pharaoh’s dreams. But it is wise to pay attention to all the clear means by which God is trying to get our attention.

And truly, the Lord can use many ways, but He fully and finally offers us a continual and reliable revelation through His Word.

While it is useful to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and keep our spiritual antennae up, it is sure and certain that when we listen to the Holy Bible, we are hearing from our Holy God.

Plan Defined (33–37)

Once the dream was understood, Joseph quickly suggested a plan of action. His counsel was wise, decisive and God-given. Notice, too, how quickly the urgency cut through all the red tape that would normally confuse a matter like this: it didn’t matter that he was a Hebrew, yesterday a prisoner, an obscure nobody from nowhere.

The idea was to get it done. Pharaoh knew Joseph was the guy because Joseph knew what God was going to do.

A little knowledge about God’s future plan makes us all the more decisive in our day-to-day living. We know what God will do, so we can act today in the confidence we have about tomorrow.

That moves to Christian endurance, missions, discipleship and holiness.

We know the Lord will soon descend to judge the world and take us home. We can work, then, as Joseph did, with the confidence that today’s labor is righteous preparation for a certain future.